I am sitting on the sofa, sipping Aldi’s Salted Caramel Cream Liqueur over ice and watch the lounge descend into chaos as the oldest is wobbling around on her new (pre-loved) inline skates and the youngest tips a box of Hotwheels cars in her way. The dog has jumped out of the way and tries to lay on my lap so I can’t type anymore. Someone asks if anyone is hungry, even though we just ate two hours ago. Heaven knows where we’ll eat as the dining table is occupied by two Lego projects, an empty snack bowl and a few books. Out in the kitchen a pot is boiling pasta and a box of lateral flow tests is ready to take swabs from all of us.
My daughter has just come out of isolation, having tested positive the week before Christmas. No grandparents, no friends or other visitors for Christmas – just us. As reports from record numbers of daily infections come in and nearly everyone I know has tested positive at some stage or another, I wonder when it all will end and when normality will return. And then I remember that we are not a family that is weighed down by traditions – rather we have always done what works for us. When we still ate meat, turkey was too dry for us and so we cooked chicken instead. We don’t need pigs in blankets to complete our Christmas dinner, but loads of veg in all different shapes and forms. Dinner is served whenever we are hungry, never at a set time. And over the festive period there are no rules on when to get up and what to do. We live in the moment, we get up when we want, we decide hour after hour what we want to do and if we’re bored of Christmas tunes we boogie to the “Best of the 90s”.
I see social media posts of perfectly decorated tables, of stressed out mums and dads and last-minute dashes to overcrowded supermarkets, where people are so rude to each other that one could think there’s a shortage of loo rolls again. Christmas gets the best and worst out of us and as someone who has always strived for perfection and nearly died trying, I believe that any celebratory event that is no fun is a waste of time.
Therefore, for your mental well-being and that of anyone you choose to spend this time with, it’s important to let go of the competition, the perfection and the need to create something that resembles magic. Magic can’t be forced. Magic exists in feelings and snippets of moments, and those usually happen when you least expect them. Christmas has to work for you, not the other way round. So if you decide to decline an invitation to someone that stresses you out, feel empowered by that. If you want to sleep in on Christmas Day, do it. If you can’t stand turkey, eat something else. Preferably whatever you fancy. If you don’t have enough money for presents, don’t buy them – without feeling guilty. And if the thought of another rerun of Love Actually makes you cringe, then turn off the TV or watch whatever else you want.
The power of Christmas is that it’s a time to live in the moment. It is not about financially or mentally ruining yourself. Christmas is for everyone, and therefore you get to choose how to spend the time and with whom. Make your own rules and traditions and throw them out the window the year after. People change. Situations change. Life changes. Run with it and embrace it. The story of Christmas is about a poor boy being born in a stable – not about the princess who threw the best and most lavish Christmas party. Relax and don’t stress. And in times of a global pandemic – just roll with it.